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Top Skills Employers Look For in 2024

September 26, 2023 - Dom Barnard

The job market is in a constant state of flux, driven by technological advancements and shifting industry demands. To thrive in the world of work, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with the skills that employers value most.

In this article, we will delve into the top skills that employers are actively seeking in 2024, encompassing both soft skills and technical skills.

Technical skills take center stage

In recent years, the demand for technical skills has been on a steady rise. The growth of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs, which are projected to increase by nearly 800,000 and account for 5.9% of total employment by 2031, underscores the importance of technical expertise.

However, it’s not just job seekers who recognize the value of technical skills. Employers are also placing a significant emphasis on these abilities. Corporate training companies like Pluralsight have witnessed rapid growth, highlighting the commitment of organizations to upskilling their workforce.

Soft skills are becoming increasingly valuable

While technical skills are crucial, the landscape of the job market is evolving, with automation becoming increasingly prevalent. In this context, soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and critical thinking are making a strong comeback. As robots become more commonplace and artificial intelligence advances, these interpersonal skills are becoming more important than ever.

Economists predict that the most well-paid jobs will require a blend of business and communication skills, along with technical proficiency. Employers and individuals alike must recognize the synergy between technical and soft skills, working to develop both concurrently.

Unlock the true value of tech skills with social skills

Companies need people who can understand and work with new technologies – whether that’s machine learning, the blockchain, augmented reality or any other technology on the horizon. In order for projects to be successful, companies need employees to work together.

Technical work doesn’t usually happen in a silo – code needs to be reviewed, suppliers need to test components, projects need planning, features need to be discussed and ideas need to be pitched to management.

According to a BBC article, technical proficiency is undoubtedly crucial for securing a job. However, soft skills like communication and critical thinking are becoming equally if not more vital. Employers are increasingly evaluating a candidate’s soft skills with the same scrutiny as their experience and explicit technical expertise.

Soft skills are in high demand

Soft skills are in high demand in the workforce in general, not just in technical roles. In a thorough review of more than 80 million job postings spanning 22 different industry sectors in 2021, education non-profit America Succeeds uncovered an interesting trend.

It was observed that in almost two-thirds of the listed job positions, soft skills were clearly highlighted as essential qualifications.

Moreover, when analyzing the top 10 most sought-after skills across all job postings, a remarkable revelation emerged: seven out of these ten skills fell into the category of ‘soft’ skills, including vital attributes such as communication, problem-solving, and strategic planning.

Most in-demand soft skills (from LinkedIn research):

  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Social skills
  • Creativity
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Adaptability

As computers are inherently poor at replicating human interaction, the relevance of social skills remains undiminished. Individuals looking to succeed in their careers should actively work on enhancing their social and soft skills. Volunteering to lead a team or participating in open-source projects can be valuable ways to hone these abilities.

Moreover, in today’s digital age, innovative tools can further facilitate the enhancement of social skills. Consider immersive experiences like roleplaying with generative AI or utilizing virtual reality (VR) platforms to bolster your communication, leadership, and active listening skills.

These emerging technologies provide unique opportunities for individuals to develop and fine-tune their interpersonal competencies in an ever-evolving professional landscape.

Employers need to target specific soft skills which can then be measured

Studies have consistently shown that employers value soft skills. However soft skills, by their very nature, are hard to define and measure. It can be difficult for employees to quantify these skills on their resume or in a conversation, whereas with many technical skills, you can measure improved efficiency or speed by X amount.

Employers who target more specific soft skills can actually measure them in the hiring process, using tools like non-cognitive inventories, lists of behaviours or core competencies, and simulations. Systematically evaluating soft skills, instead of assuming they’ll come through naturally in an interview, gives these employers an advantage in the search for well-rounded talent.

Individuals need to highlight their soft skills

Individuals need to learn how to ‘sell’ their soft skills to companies. You can start by updating your CV or resume with your strongest soft skills or ones that link to the job you are applying for. These might be oral communication skills, ability to work in a team or problem solving skills.

When adding these skills, try and use precise language and keywords as many resumes and LinkedIn profiles are scanned by software.

Also think about how can highlight your soft skills in an interview. For example, if you’re asked to talk about a successful project you worked on, take the opportunity to describe how you communicated the timeline or worked with several different teams to achieve results.

How to highlight your soft skills:

  • Add them to your resume using the right keywords and language
  • Mention them in interviews by linking them to stories and experiences
  • Add to your skills in LinkedIn

Soft skills require constant improvement and training

Building both your technical and soft skills is difficult to manage and will take time. These skills constantly need to be improved as you encounter different situations throughout your career.

On the technical side, the most in-demand cognitive skills will continue to evolve quickly. In its 2023 The Future of Jobs report, the World Economic Forum indicated that Employers estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years.

Soft skills are also a moving target, and employers can and should help employees keep up. It’s worth noting that research has shown the substantial impact of soft skills on a nation’s economy. For instance, in the UK, the failure to invest in soft skills development results in an annual loss of £22 billion, as evidenced by recent research findings.

This underscores the imperative for employers to actively support their workforce in soft skills development.

How individuals can improve their soft skills:

  • Volunteer to lead a team or project at work
  • Work on an open source project with other people
  • Highlight 3 soft skills you want to improve and ask your manager to rate you on them every few months
  • Practice in realistic exercises within virtual reality
  • Complete an online or in-person training course

In summary

As individuals and employers begin to understand the skills gap within the workplace, they need to consider both soft skills and technical skills. These skills are an equally important part of a successful business and should be improved together.